50 Free Holiday & Christmas Events in DC, Virginia, Maryland 2023

Washington DC Virginia Maryland Winter Activities

There are so many free holiday and Christmas events in DC and the surrounding areas, that I had to cap it at 50! I'm so grateful we live in the DMV where you don't have to spend a lot to make wonderful family memories this holiday season. (I also write about 12 paid Holiday Light Displays here.)

Free Christmas Events in DC

Table of Contents:

  1. Washington DC Free Things to Do (32)
    1. Lightings and Markets
    2. Millenium Stage at the Kennedy Center
    3. Smithsonian Free Family Events
    4. City Main Streets
  2. Maryland Free Activities (8)
  3. Virginia Free Activities (10)

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Free Washington DC Christmas Events and Holiday Activities

free holiday Christmas Washington DC

Free US Botanic Gardens Holiday Display and Trains - Read our Family Review with Parking Info

Free DC Christmas Tree Lightings and Holiday Markets

  1. US Botanic Gardens Holiday Display and Trains - November 23, 2023, to January 1, 2024. Check out our family's review here with parking info! Wonderful model trains plus an Indoor Conservatory with DC landmarks made of plants. We've visited for the last 10 years now and it's such a wonderful family tradition.
  2. Downtown Holiday Market - November 17 - December 23. (Closed Thanksgiving Nov. 23 and Monday, Dec. 4) Noon to 8 PM daily
  3. City Center - Saturday, November 25, free and no reservation needed. Spectacular 75-foot tree decked with over 155,000 lights and ornaments. Open daily after the lighting.
  4. US Capitol Tree - Real tree from a national forest! The 2023 tree will come from the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. Decorated with ornaments from around the United States, this is a fun tree to visit after the US Botanic Garden!
  5. Embassy of Canada - Beautiful tree in their atrium open to the public during the holiday season. 2.5 blocks north of the US Capitol Tree. Free to view at the Rotunda of the Provinces & Territories in front of the Embassy.
  1. Union Station Tree and Train Display - Hosted by the Embassy of Norway. I am working to confirm when the lighting will be.
  2. Capitol Hill Neighborhood Tree Lighting - Saturday, November 18, 2023 free and no reservation needed.
  3. National Menorah - Lighting will be on December 7, 2023. Tickets will be available on November, 10th at 5 PM on their website. The Menorah will be lit each day of Chanukah until December 15. Read more and see pictures on the Holiday Lights blog here.
  4. National Christmas Tree and 58 Trees - The National Christmas Tree Lighting will be on November 30, 2023, and airing on CBS on December 15, 2023.
    1. Located on the Ellipse on the White House grounds, the lights will turn on at sunset each evening and turn off at 10 pm Sunday - Thursday and 11 pm on Friday and Saturday. Full tips post from last year's visit here!
  5. Georgetown GLOW, an outdoor light art experience on East Market Lane returns with the stunning and whimsical exhibit Cloud Swing by Lindsay Glatz & the Curious Form New Orleans. This interactive installation, which features suspended multicolored swings, will be open to the public from December 1, 2023 – Sunday, January 7, 2024.
DC christmas lights yards park

Photo courtesy of Sara from @LongWalksDC in 2022. Thanks so much!

The Light Yards: The Bells are coming back to Yards Park! Free and open to the public are 5, 13-foot tall bells that jingle when you swing on them! From November 20, 2023 to January 7, 2024. Open nightly.

Note: ZooLights at the National Zoo - Unfortunately in 2023, ZooLights is no longer free but $6 per person. More info here! November 24 - December 30th, 2023 on select days.

National Christmas Tree DC Hours

Full tips post from last year's visit here!

Free Holiday Events at Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center

best-washington-dc-winter-kenendy center
  1. Eight Nights of Klezmer - December 7, 2023 at 6 PM (Free ticket reservations start November 22 at 10 AM)
  2. FREE! Notes of Honor: NSO Salutes the Military: A Holiday Pops! with Norm Lewis - December 7, 2023 at 7 PM - You can reserve now!
  3. Merry TUBACHRISTMAS! - December 11, 2023 at 6 PM (Free ticket reservations start November 22 at 10 AM)
  4. Holiday Swingin’! - December 13, 2023 at 6 PM (Free ticket reservations start November 29 at 10 AM)
  5. NSO Youth Fellows - December 14, 2023 at 6 PM (Free ticket reservations start November 29 at 10 AM)
  6. Extraordinary Cinema: The Nightmare Before Christmas - December 17, 2023 at 3 PM (Free ticket reservations start November 29 at 10 AM)
  7. DuPont Brass - December 19, 2023 at 3 PM (Free ticket reservations start December 6 at 10 AM)
  8. Beltway Brass Quintet - December 21, 2023 at 3 PM (Free ticket reservations start December 6 at 10 AM)
  9. The Baily Missionary Kings of Harmony
    (formerly the Sweet Heaven Kings) - December 22, 2023 at 3 PM (Free ticket reservations start December 6 at 10 AM)
  10. Messiah Sing-Along - December 23, 2023 at 3 PM (Free ticket reservations start November 29 at 10 AM)
  11. All-Star Christmas EVE Jazz Jam - December 24, 2023 at 3 PM (Free ticket reservations start December 6 at 10 AM)

Free DC Holiday Smithsonian Events for Families

  1. Native Art Market - Saturday, December 2 and Sunday December 3, 2023: 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. American Indian Museum
  2. Culture Queen Kids Hour: Winter Solstice Soiree - Saturday, December 2, 12 – 1 p.m. Anacostia Community Museum
  3. Kwanzaa & Watch Night: Visions of Freedom - Saturday, December 30, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. African American History and Culture Museum
dc free Christmas events

DC Holiday Lights City Main Streets - November 17, 2023 – January 7, 2024

  1. Chevy Chase Main Street Holiday Lights
  2. Cleveland Park Main Street Holiday Lights
  3. Columbia Heights Main Street Holiday Lights
  4. Logan Circle Main Street Holiday Lights
  5. Lower Georgia Avenue Main Street Holiday Lights
  6. Mount Pleasant Main Street Holiday Lights
  7. Petworth Main Street Holiday Lights
  8. The Parks Main Street Holiday Lights
  9. U Street Main Street Holiday Lights
  10. Uptown Main Street Holiday Lights
  11. Woodley Park Main Street Holiday Lights
  12. Tenleytown Mian Street Holiday Lights
  13. The Holly Days Eastern Market Main Street
  14. Barracks Row Main Street

Maryland Free Holiday and Christmas Things to Do


Credit: Jeffrey Socha

  1. National Harbor Tree Light Show - Every evening from November 12, 2023 to January 3, 2024.
    1. One of the prettiest in the region! And the giant Ferris wheel is all lit up for the holidays too! Light show info here.
    2. Also, on Saturday nights from November 11 – December 30 at 5:30 p.m. they will also have a free spectacular fireworks display following the tree lighting show.
  2. Gaylord National Hotel Show - Free in the atrium. November 24, 2023 - December 31, 2023. Daily: 7:30 pm, 8:45 pm, 9:15 pm.
    1. And check out their amazing ICE! featuring Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and now 50% off ICE! tickets with code CYBER23 if booked before 11/27/23. Excludes Saturdays and blackout dates.
  3. Sailing Through the Winter Solstice Frederick - November 18, 2023 - March 2024.
    1. "You can view the boats anytime day or night. In fact, you may want to take a look while it's light out and again after it gets dark and the lights come on. Lights typically turn on at sunset, so this is a great time to see them both ways." 
  4. German Christmas Village at Baltimore's Inner Harbor - Free on weekends but $5 admission for adults for the heated tent on weekends. November 18, 2023 - December 24, 2023.
  5. Silver Spring Christmas Market and Holiday Craft Fair- Dec 3, 2023
  6. 50th Annual Baltimore Holiday Parade - Sunday, December 3, 2023
  7. 32nd Annual Bel Air Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting - Sunday, December 3, 2023
  8. Tinkergarten Free Lantern Walks all around Maryland - Will see if they are doing this in 2023.
  9. A Dickens of a Christmas Weekend - Dec 9-10, 2023 Chestertown, Maryland
    1. "Set in the Historic District, the festival celebrates the season with live music, carriage rides, Victorian food and drink, costumed characters, entertainment and more."

Virginia Free Holiday and Christmas Activities

Leesburg Christmas itinerary free things holiday virginia

  1. Lucketts Old General Store and Grounds
    1. Free to walk around the grounds for lovely holiday displays, bonfires, and food trucks (including Carpedonut!) I wrote about our Christmas Itinerary of all free things here.
  2. Old Town Alexandria - Lovely to walk around the historic streets and numerous Waterfront parks. Their Scottish Parade is Saturday, December 2, 2023 at 11 AM.
  3. Christmas in Middleburg - Dec 1-3, 2023
    1. Join one of the most fun-filled family festivals of the year in Middleburg with activities, special events, great eats, the famous Middleburg Hunt Review, and a mile-long Christmas parade.
      1. Friday - O Holy Night! The Tree Lighting Ceremony and Carols, behind the Pink Box, 12 North Madison St., 5 p.m. on Friday.
      2. Saturday - 8 AM Breakfast with Santa
        1. 11 AM middleburg Hunt and Hounds Review
        2. 2 PM Christmas Parade
        3. 3 - 6 PM Spirits of Middleburg
      3. Sunday - 2 PM Christmas Pageant
  4. Gulf Branch Park, Arlington - Confirming dates but last year until December 18
    1. Santa mailbox to drop off a letter from your child! If you send a letter by December 18, you will receive a postcard from Santa!
  5. Manassas Christmas Parade - December 2, 2023 at 10 AM (great pics on their site!)
  6. Bluemont Vineyard - Lighting of the Vines event is not free but last year they were lit every Thursday to Sunday at 5:30 PM in December.
  7. Scottish Walk Open House at Carlyle House - Alexandria Dec. 2, 2023. Free!
  8. Holiday Walk of Lights Neabsco Regional Park - Woodbridge, VA
    1. Back for the 2nd year in a row! our family loves the boardwalk at Neabsco Regional Park and now the Prince William Parks Department has added unique, hand-crafted light displays all along the path!
    2. Fridays to Sundays from December 1 - 23, 2023, and Sensory Night on Tuesday, December 12 where there will be reduced volume and lower lights.
    3. Highly recommend checking out their website for all the parking information including a free parking shuttle from local schools.
  9. Rocking Around the Boardwalk at Neabsco Regional Park in Woodbridge
    1. To be confirmed for 2023. Info for 2022 below. Free Event but Registration Highly recommend. Includes Holiday Music, a Unique Holiday Tree Display on the Boardwalk, and a Holiday Selfie Station
    2. Saturday, December 10, 2022 through December 31, 2022.
    3. *Registration is highly recommended due to popular demand. Limited parking is available. Register early! 10:30 am - 12 noon, 12:30 - 2pm and 2:30 - 4pm
  10. Free Neighborhood Light Displays - Check out 3 wonderful displays in Burke including the Elf House!
  11. Tinkergarten Free Lantern Walks all around Virginia and Maryland - Checking if they are doing this in 2023.
  12. Ballston Quarter: Had great events last year, will check for 2023.
free virginia Christmas events

All the DMV Holiday Posts below:

  1. 30 Holiday Light Displays in the DMV
  2. Top 10 Holiday Spots in DC (great for out-of-town visitors!)
  3. 10 Things to Do for New Year's in DMV and at Home
  4. Experience Gift Ideas in the DMV
  5. 3 Neighborhood Lights in Burke and Springfield (including The Elf House!)
  6. Ice Skating in the DMV
  7. Sledding Spots in the DMV
  8. Snow Tubing at Bryce Resort, Virginia
  9. Sledding at Blackwater Falls, West Virginia
  10. Modlin's Maryland Christmas Tree Farm